Canada – A-
Oh Canada. This is a brutally difficult one for me to judge. I have a highly personal stake in it, but I have to face facts. The women, aside from Sara Renner’s out-of-nowhere third place in Canmore and Dasha’s emergence as a regular classic sprint qualifier, did not have a good year. Crawford did not exactly destroy life in her comeback, and although it kills me to say it, Perianne Jones (according to program expectations, country hopes, development continuation, not family, brother, or biggest fan opinion) struggled to find her form. While Renner did have a fairly successful year, garnering 203 WC points in a wide variety of events, her replacements on the distance side are problematic, as with Renner retiring, it leaves a massive vacuum that Madelaine Williams and Brittney Webster have to magically fill within a year. Doubtful, unless Dasha continues her metoric rise to success, in which she managed to scoop up 63 WC points, including a few distance, good enough for 71st overall. While the women were not expected to produce dozens of podiums and top 10’s, I was hoping the return of Chandra Crawford, and Sara Renner closing out her career would blow my mind. My mind my have been blown, but unfortunately it was not by the women, but the men. Basically, the A- primarily comes from the men’s team Olympic performance. While not one of the best teams on the WC this season, the boys did everything at the Olympics short of win a medal. And no one who knows anything about skiing can fault them. The team clearly focused on the Olympics, and rightly so.
However, this hurt the World Cup performances. George Grey’s 31 WC points don’t really do justice to the quality season he had. He had an okay Tour de Ski, except for an injury, and most of his other races were solid, but his season was great because of the Olympics. When your Olympic record reads 29th, 8th, 7th, and 18th when the previous best he had during the season was 17th (Canmore/Oberhof Tour Prologue), it’s a damn good Olympics. If they handed out WC points, he would have racked up 47, or more than twice his end total. His low WC point total also prevented him from attending the World Cup final in Sweden, a bit of a kick in the teeth. His longtime teammate Devon Kershaw also took a dip in WC points, as his 190 WC points are a far cry from last seasons’ 401. But similar to Grey, he saved his best for the Olympics, most notably crushing a 4th and 5th place in the Team Sprint and the 50 km. Kersh also wins some sort of award for awful luck, as he managed to lose his ski in the last 2 km of the Tour de Ski 10 km Classic, an event where he was sitting in the top 5 at the time. Ivan Babikov (295 WCP, up from 167 last season) needs little commentary, because he is not only arguably the toughest guy on the circuit, but crushes Snickers bars on a regular basis. Alex Harvey, in his first full season, skied well, but there were no shocks like last year. While he didn’t score any World Cup medals this season, he earned 167 World Cup points, and same as his teammates, showed up big time at the Olympics. In the depth spots, Canadian men picked it up. Nine different men scored at least 8 WC points, mostly in sprinting, with the exception of Graham Nishikawa, who managed to collect some distance points. It was the Canadian men who contributed most to the 12th Nations Cup ranking, and while it was less spectacular than last season, there were bright spots. In conclusion, because this has become an essay, the Canucks did not destroy the World Cup, but showed that they can compete on the world stage by skiing fantastic at the Olympics, where it matters most. And all without whining. Hear that, Justyna?
Watch out for: I want to say the Men’s Relay at World Champs in Oslo next year, but that would be cheating. Instead, I’m looking at Brent McMurty to jump up and hang with the big boys. He can sprint, he can distance ski, he can grow a mean beard, and was nice enough to put up with me at the Olympics, including taking a picture.
If you hadn’t caught on yet, this is going by alphabetical order. Also, there will be 4 a day for the next however many days it takes me to get through the countries, you get bored, I get bored, or someone finally talks me into doing some schoolwork. Probably not the last one though. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s review, featuring none other than China, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and another essay entitled – How to Suck Big Time: The Finland Story. Hint: Finland doesn’t get an A+.
Note - If you're wondering why you were tagged, it's because you were dumb enough to indicate on the last post you were vaguely interested in this topic. Got you now, sucka!